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Drug Lord's Letter Incriminates Noriega

A LETTER to Manuel Noriega from an imprisoned marijuana kingpin pledges secrecy about the deposed dictator's involvement in drug money laundering and seems to clear him in a cocaine laboratory protection scheme.The 1984 letter, written by drug trafficker Steven Kalish from the Beaumont County Jail in Texas, was introduced as evidence Wednesday in Noriega's trial on 10 counts of cocaine racketeering and importing and distributing the drug. Kalish testified that earlier Noriega allowed him to launder drug profits and plan marijuana shipments in Panama in the early 1980s while Kalish was a fugitive from US drug-trafficking charges. He said he personally paid Noriega hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege. In two days of testimony, Kalish implicated Noriega in a marijuana smuggling conspiracy outlined in a 1988 Tampa indictment. Although Noriega is not on trial on those charges, US District Judge William Hoeveler allowed the testimony as proof of Noriega's state of mind and criminal intent. The letter's importance in the trial is uncertain because Kalish admitted on the witness stand that "not everything in this letter is accurate." The letter was seized earlier this year in a Panamanian safe deposit box owned by Noriega's wife, Felicidad.

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